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2010 Poetry Challenge

National Poetry Month



Peter Willowdown

Prussian Blue

In prussian blue I called to you,
your face entangled in viridian locks
from which peeped out your cadmium frown
atop its sepia habiliment,
your famous gown of dark renown
in which you gazed on old Troy town
ere Achilles swore his vow
and Agamemnon cursed the bow
that shot the fateful arrow
loosed atop young Cupid's barrow
by some usurper archer
bent on desecration.

Almost trapped by your Gorgon stare
I placed one foot upon the Stairs
that used to lead to Luna
ere those wraiths from furthest space
took to howling in her gardens
and searching for some long-lost key
to their disinheritance
in the stagnant pools of waters
where telepathic lilies once thrived;
and then I slowly placed another
uncaring of just what I might discover
on the other side of Night
now given over all to fright
and wild ungodly conjecture.

Had not a swallow swooped low
from Evening's song-filled bower
I do not know if I'd have wakened
from the luring of your glamour,
beguiled by long-dead memories
of some far-off summer hour
when mortal blood still ran in your veins
and I was all too eager to place myself
in the train of your enamoured devotees
and worship at the fane of your
still quite lovely mystery.
Even now though I know full well
the extent and depth of your treachery
my human heart cannot help but shudder
when it contemplates the wonder that was
and the beauty that burst from your tongue
ere song itself was corrupted
and you quit the fields of Earth and Fairie
to sup at the Devil's Banquet,
casting your former poets and lovers
an occasional smile compounded all
of tarnished and duplicitous sweetness
poisoned with your master's bile,
grace as vile as all the fair lies
by which Lucifer swears allegiance to Heaven.

"Come away, foolish man," whisperd the swallow in my ear,
"the barren fields of the Moon are no longer fit for thee,
all the marble and ivory temples of antiquity
are thrown down and only ill-limbed shadows linger
where once faun and dryad innocently disported,
their casual pleasures unmarked by sin or malice.
Now the forests of Tranquility are haunted by vampires;
the parks and pleasure-gardens of that once fair sphere
are drained of all vitality and She has become
a cold and mocking deaths-head orbiting the World,
a younger sister that was suborned by shadow
and whose only surviving desire
is to lead all other planets and stars to a state
akin to her own cold yet starkly glittering pulchritude
for in this yea she still has power
and the hearts and minds of men,
remembering the sumptious beauty of Avalon and Arcadia,
are easily swayed and would turn back the count of days
to a time when Heaven dwelled on Earth
and the unacknowleged Abyss had not yet given birth
to all the spurious children of the Mirror
that ever call to and seek to divert the minds of men
from the sad and awful truth
that their Mother quite wilfully betrayed them
and gave them over to Anquish
and sends out her handmaidens to torment them
with false songs and visions of Paradise.

In prussian blue I called to you
and from the once magnificent marvels of Magenta Mansions,
whose columns were all of living stone,
as full of life and sap as any tree
and in whose rafters the divine antecedents of swallows
and nightingales filled the universe with melody
and the unrequited yearning to exceed all limitations,
I heard a ghastly croaking sound,
the hollow skeleton of mirth and laughter,
summoning me to the revels of disaster...

Oh a Garden still exists upon the Moon
but in its arbours lunatic sports bend and sway
and deviation rules the chiaroscuroed day.
Heliotrope is fair but fanged,
Hyocyamus tells you stories of far-off perilous lands.
Please do not sup with buttercup
or you will find yourself part of the menu;
Ivy clings and won't let go;
Snowdrop pretends to be slow
but listen too long to her tales of woe
and you will not wake in the morning,
turned to brittle ice by her spite,
beyond all warming rays or flight
to the Temple of Dead Bees
and their pots of dark gold honey
that covet the blood of mortal dreamers
to make small coins to trade with the sons of Charon
that cover the eyes of the Dead with them,
each one eager to entice unwary travellers
onto his weed-strewn barque
with tales of the fabulous lands seen through their lenses
As soon as you have signed their script
they're in your pockets and behind your eyes,
inspecting and grading your memories
for sale in the Market of the Damned,
held three hundred and sixty days each year
on the banks of the swift-running Styx
where it is joined by the small stream of Lethe
that began as a happy thought in some dreaming poet's mind
but now is as wide as the Hellespont
and getting wider every year,
swollen with men's sighs and tears.

Even the raspbery leaf
has triple rows of poisoned teeth
and will feast on you as you savour her sweetness,
unmindful of your desperate cries
when you realize too late
there is no succour or escape.
And should you even briefly linger
where the fallen pine reclines
you will be turned into a swine,
grubbing for roots and rooting for grubs
and when you cannot find any,
tearing at our own tongue and gums
with your own discoloured nubs,
thinking them a tasty treat
despite the blood and screaming meat...

Frangipani is especially scary
and likes to creep up on the unwary
whilst Peony is always ready
to drain the dreams of man or child.
But, yea, though I walk in the valley of nightmares,
I still recall with pleasure the beautiful crown
and wings of the innocent Angel
as He told His many fables in the Fairie Woods at Dawn
though I fear He has passed forever from the Earth
unto some other fairer bourne
beyond the fevered machinations of evil
where the maggot and the weevil
are the only true Kings
and their Queen is Mistress Malice,
grinning like a Cheshire Sphinx,
ever hungry for the food and drink
that she loves best
and the corruption of all beautiful things.

Beasts there are too in the Savage Garden,
just as vile as rank vegetation,
hybrids born of Night and Time
that nest in Man's Imagination:
lamias and carnivorous centaurs,
owls with hollow needle teeth,
apes that have degrees in spiritual
philosophy and torture,
octopi that haunt dead seas
in palaces of crumbled coral,
arid lagoons and razor sharp reefs
full of mosquito gnats and flying pirana
whose chief delight is the deadly dance and drama
of predatory pursuit
and the slow decomposition
of what remains of beauty and truth.

What little there is of youth and purity.
soon becomes warped in the garden of madness and evil
and the dim ancestral memory of innocent affection
soon becomes something else
for after a while the flame of love,
taken up and twisted by the limbo winds of airless desolation,
burns with its own special and quite ravenous power
and on the Moon there is no rain to douse it;
it eats like a canker into the mind and flesh
until it has consumed the best
and all that is left is a brittle shell
and Heaven becomes indistinguishable from Hell.
Perhaps, infact, it always was so.
I do not know, I do not know.
At times I forget not only my own name
but that of my Beloved.
Days and months pass before I remember her;
my thoughts are reduced to lost and listless puppets,
monstrous marrionettes bereft of purpose and reason,
jerked this way and that on orphan winds
on which sometimes drift the last sad seeds and spores
of a long-forgotten paradise,
all that remains of Earth's impossible dream
of Arcadia and Elysium.

In prussian blue I think to call to you
but while I fitfully slept
something has removed my tongue and my ancient words
of sharp and brittle grief stick in my throat
so that I retch and almost choke,
recalling in a fit of agony a hundred wrongly made choices
and errant pathways taken but none are quite
as right or righteous as when they know they are mistaken
and though the world screams in its terminal silence
until my head is ringing with its echoes
I cannot recall, try as I might, the simplest melody
of my many youthful voices, yours amongst them...
Oh that I had perished then
but even in this my will was thwarted,
my doom became yet more distorted;
the fates and harpies had not yet taken
their full delight in me and now of late their sovereign,
Queen Mab, has taken to occasionally wearing your face
and gesturing to me beguilingly.
Imps and goblins break into wild gales of laughter,
startling the yellow-beaked crows sitting on their shoulders
as they contemplate the unnameable horrors
I have yet to go through in this interminable hereafter
where black is white and white is black
and there is no turnng back, only the eternal regurgitation
of the monotonous and worthless prayers of the damned.

Ash to ash and dust to dust,
I write these words because I must...
you that come after me, if you still have limbs and sanity,
turn about and flee!
There is no longer any beauty or magic here,
only echoes of madness and death.
Do not waste your breath in seeking to question me further.
Soon dawn, or what yet passes for it, will
break up the dark suzereignity of the Moon
and the detestable dandelions will devour me...
though like Prometheus on his rock, Mistress Malice
ever devises new torments to torture me,
no vengeful falcon of Zeus was ever as creative
or imaginative as her owls and harpies.

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